I am ob-SESSED with French pastries. In fact, I made the decision to become a pastry chef after a two-week trip to Paris where I fell in love with all the amazing food. This French pastry filled with crème pâtissière is traditionally about the size of a dinner plate, but here it is in cupcake form!

Makes
20

Preparation

55min

Cooking

1hr

Skill level

Mid
By
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For all you purists out there, I know traditional crème pâtissière doesn’t include gelatin, but this recipe uses it to help stabilise the crème so that it’s firm enough to pipe.

Ingredients

Crème pâtissière

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100 g (3½ oz) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) hot full-cream (whole) milk
  • 300 g (10½ oz) cold butter, cubed

 

Choux pastry

  • 125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 220 g (8 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 4–5 eggs
  • egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 teaspoons milk)
  • 100 g (3½ oz) flaked almonds (optional)

 

Cupcakes

  • 430 g (15 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 265 g (9½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 375 ml (12½ fl oz/1½ cups) full-cream (whole) milk
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp Greek yoghurt (or sour cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

 

Decorations

  • icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Chilling time 3-4 hours or overnight

1. To make crème pâtissière, begin by adding the gelatin to a small, microwave-safe bowl with 160 ml (5½ fl oz) cold water. Give it a stir and set aside to bloom.

2. Combine the egg yolks, vanilla bean paste and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until the mixture turns lighter in colour.

3. Add the cornflour and plain flour, and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add one-third of the hot milk and stir until well combined, then slowly add the rest of the milk, stirring constantly.

4. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it thickens and becomes smooth. It has reached the right consistency when it coats the back of a spoon. If you can run a finger through it and leave a clean line, it’s ready to take off the heat.

5. Microwave the gelatin mixture on high for 15 seconds. Add the melted gelatin to the hot custard and stir until it dissolves completely, then add the cold butter cubes and stir until melted and combined.

6. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3–4 hours or overnight to allow it to completely set. When you’re ready to pipe, gently stir the custard until smooth.

7. To make the choux pastry, combine the butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan with 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) water and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once boiling, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

8. Put the saucepan back over a medium heat and stir continuously. A couple of things are happening while you do this: the mixture is being cooked, but it’s also drying out. You’ll notice a lot of steam coming out of the dough as you mix it. That’s what you want to happen. This step can get quite tiring, but push past the pain and stir! This is the way it’s been done for centuries, and plenty of chefs before you have survived.

9. After about 2–3 minutes, the mixture will begin to pull away from the side of the pan and a film will form on the bottom. Once that happens, remove it from the heat.

10. Transfer the hot dough to a large mixing bowl and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon, start adding the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

11. After you have added the fourth egg, test to see if the mixture is sticky enough. The best way to do this is by stretching it out between two fingers. If it stretches without breaking, then it’s done. If it’s too dry, add the fifth egg.

12. Preheat a fan-forced oven to 220°C (430°F) or a conventional oven to 240°C (450°F). Add a dab of sticky dough to the corners of two baking trays, then line with baking paper.

13. Fit the end of a piping bag with a medium round tip, fill with the dough and pipe out small rings, about 5–6 cm (2–2ó in) in diameter. Use your fingers to brush the rings with the egg wash, then sprinkle each ring with flaked almonds.

14. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 175°C (345°F) for a fan-forced oven (195°C/365°F for a conventional oven) and bake until golden brown.

15. Transfer the baked pastries to a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing them in half with a serrated \knife.

16. To make the cupcake, preheat a fan-forced oven to 140°C (275°F) or a conventional oven to 160°C (320°F). Line two cupcake tins with the cupcake cases.

17. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.

18. Next, add the softened butter and mix on low speed until the mixture reaches a crumbly, sand-like texture.

19. Add the eggs, milk, oil, yoghurt and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix for a final 20 seconds. It’s at this point that you can add any flavourings or food-gel colourings to the batter.

20. Fill each case three-quarters of the way. Using an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the cupcake cases makes this a quick and easy process and ensures each case contains exactly the same amount of batter so that the cupcakes bake evenly.

21. Bake for 40–50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

22. To thin out some crème pâtissière for piping, add 175 ml (6 fl oz) warm milk to 250 ml (8½  fl oz/1 cup) warm crème pâtissière and whisk until well combined. Transfer to a piping bag and snip off the end.

23. To assemble the cupcakes, core each cupcake with an apple corer (stop about 1.cm (.⁄..in) from the bottom) and fill with the thinned-out crème pâtissière. Fit another piping bag with a Wilton 6B tip, fill it with thick crème patisserie and pipe small blobs around the edge of the cored centres.

24. Place a choux pastry ring on top, pressing it very gently into the thick crème patisserie to hold it in place.

25. Pipe a swirl of thick crème pâtissière on top of each choux ring, then sandwich with the remaining rings and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Note

• These cupcakes are best assembled on the day you want to serve them. You can prepare the cupcakes, crème pâtissière and the choux pastry rings the day before.

This recipe is from Sugar Rebels by Nick Makrides published by Hardie Grant Books RRP ($32.99) and is available in stores nationally. Photography by Nick Makrides.